The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Talbott—Does God allow irreparable harm?

I’ve been reading my book that defends purgatory and see that the author goes along with many church Fathers including Augustine that purgatory and hell are both under the earth in the Lake of Fire. Hell is just a different state of being than purgatory. The Catholic liturgy holds out the hope for the salvation of all for they pray for all the dead because they never claim any person actually dies in a mortal sin and don’t know who enters the state of being called hell. The church never proclaims anyone to be in the state of being that is hell. Based on this and the scriptures above we must reasonably hope that all will be saved. The “whole world” and “all mankind” is restricted to the new heavens and earth where “all things” are made new. The lake of fire isn’t included in this. To be included in “all people” or the “whole world” one has to be grafted into the body of Christ and become part of “all humanity”. The Bible does teach that God does this for some but is silent on the rest of those in the Lake of fire. The route I now take is that of the Catholic theologian Von Balthasar. We can reasonably hope and pray that all will be saved.

The title of this thread is, “Does God allow irreparable harm?” I haven’t read Tom’s comments yet, but i wonder if this question is related: “Is God a monster if ETC is true?”

Following is part of a discussion i’ve been having recently with a EO lady at CF. Now i’m off to read what Tom said ;


You say God doesn’t want to torment them, yet He forces them into His presence which torments them. As if One Who is Omnipotent had no other options. Such as in this world where He doesn’t force them into such torments, so there is no reason why He would have to do so in the afterlife. None that you have yet provided, at least.

A Being who Is Love simply doesn’t cause, or allow, such sufferings, unless there is a positive purpose & goal in mind, in this case the salvation of all who He would choose to subject to such torments. Yet you claim it cannot be known if such sufferings would be corrective & salvific. If they are not, the only logical alternative is that they are hideously monstrous. And if endless, then infinitely worse than the sadists of all history combined.

So no matter how you try to flower up the dead corpse of unceasing miseries with roses & petals, a rotting carcass is still a rotting carcass, whether it’s the Calvinist brand of an eternity of sufferings, or any other.

We can do better than merely hope, since the apostle states “many” will be saved. Furthermore it’s so many that it’s used in the same sentence, and in parallel, with the number of humanity who fell through Adam:

Rom 5:18 Consequently, then, as it was through one offense for all mankind for condemnation, thus also it is through one just act for all mankind for life’s justifying."

Rom 5:19 For even as, through the disobedience of the one man, the many were constituted sinners, thus also, through the obedience of the One, the many shall be constituted just."

Whether one wants to believe their church dogma, or the Word of God, is up to them. Evidently EO scholar David Bentley Hart has chosen the latter.

There is only one refuge for those that claim that God will allow/decree that ECT is fitting - and that refuge is Sovereignty. But in order for that to ‘work’ as a justification of ECT, we would have to accept behaviors from God that we would find appalling in a human being.

This debate can lead to a very uncomfortable set of conclusions, among which is: when one side says ‘god’, is it the ‘same’ god as the other side is talking about? We’ve talked about this on the Forum previously.

Excellent point!

Does the euthyphro dilemna present a problem for those who try to justify endless torments based on sovereignty?

If someone can direct me to such discussions, i’d appreciate it.

BTW, the article by Tom Talbott is excellent. I’ll need to read it again so it can soak in.

“This does not mean, of course, that a loving God, whose goal is the reconciliation of the world, would prevent every suicide, every murder, or every atrocity in human history, however horrendous such evils may seem to us; it follows only that he would prevent every harm that not even omnipotence could repair at some future time, and neither suicide nor murder is necessarily an instance of that kind of harm. For God can resurrect the victims of murder and suicide just as easily as he can the victims of old age. So even if a loving God could sometimes permit murder, he could never permit one person to annihilate the soul of another or to destroy the very possibility of future happiness in another; and even if he could sometimes permit suicide, he could never permit his loved ones to destroy the very possibility of future happiness in themselves either. Just as loving parents are prepared to restrict the freedom of the children they love, so a loving God would restrict the freedom of the children he loves, at least in cases of truly irreparable harm. The only difference is that God deals with a much larger picture and a much longer time frame than that with which human parents are immediately concerned.”

How is that a problem?

Harm- that is a good question :laughing:

The Talbott article has some very interesting remarks re election & Romans 8.

Similarly in another piece he tackles predestination: … nation.pdf

Likewise Alex has an excellent article on the elect here:

Which gives an overview of the topic through the entire Scriptures.

“Does the euthyphro dilemma present a problem for those who try to justify endless torments based on sovereignty?”

The question of the Good and it’s relation to ‘the gods’ (Plato) indirectly speaks to the ECT problem we face. As we wrestle with that problem we are, for lack of a more respectful term, putting God ‘in the dock’ - we are posing an ethical question to God by asking what is more important - sovereignty or ‘the good’? Is one subordinate to the other? And why? That gets us to Euthyphro.